Federal budget a 'step backwards' for cities: Miller - CBC News
Federal budget a 'step backwards' for cities: MillerIn all fairness, it's difficult to add something to such a complex piece of legislation over the weekend. It takes weeks, if not months to draft a budget...
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 20, 2007 | 9:12 AM ET
Monday's federal budget may have appeased Ontario, but Mayor David Miller says it left cash-strapped cities worse off than a year before.
"The budget really, for the City of Toronto and Canada's other major cities, is a step backwards," Miller told CBC News.
Citing last week's census population data, Miller said Canadians are increasingly urban dwellers and he had hoped the budget would recognize that with much-needed funds for cities.
The federal budget ignored Miller's two big demands — one cent of the GST for cities and a sustainable national transit program.
A national transit program would have meant predictable, long-term funding for Toronto's public transit.
"I think it's a matter of the federal government catching up to where people are. People get it. They live in cities. When they're stuck in traffic, they know they need public transit," said Miller.
Days before the budget, the Toronto Transit Commission revealed its ambitious $6-billion plan to build a network of streetcar lines across the city over the next 15 years — but it was contingent on the federal and provincial governments providing more than two-thirds of the money.
Without any promised funds from federal coffers, the plan is left up in the air.
Ottawa also rejected Miller's call for one of every six cents collected from GST to go to cities. It's not the mayor's first rejection, and he says he doesn't plan to give up yet.
Miller also criticized the lack of money for affordable housing and called child-care pledges inadequate.
"For Canada to succeed, we need investment in our cities. We need investment in the housing that allows people to live in those cities, in public transit and other infrastructure," said Miller. "This budget does not meet the needs of Canada's cities in any substantial way."
He's decided to take the budget up as an election battle cry, urging citizens to punish the Conservatives by voting against them in the next federal election.
What am I saying?
Even the Toronto Sun thinks this budget is bad for cities. As I watched the finance minister appear on channel after channel, repeating the same talking points about how we have to "live within our means," I was shaken out of my post-subway announcement bliss. Cities cannot live within their means - not in Ontario anyway. Cities process, ship and consume the products that the conservative-stronghold rural areas produce. If cities fail, we all fail.
Mr. Flaherty. Do not dangle subways before us and hope we will give you a free pass. We won't.